Peripheral blood erythrocyte parameters in hemochromatosis: evidence for increased erythrocyte hemoglobin content

J Lab Clin Med. 2000 Jan;135(1):96-104. doi: 10.1016/s0022-2143(00)70026-6.


We studied peripheral blood erythrocyte parameters and HFE genotypes in 94 hemochromatosis probands and 132 white, normal control subjects. Mean red blood cell counts in probands and control subjects were not significantly different. However, mean values of hemoglobin, hematocrit, mean corpuscular volume (MCV), mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH), and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) were significantly higher in C282Y/C282Y probands (n = 60) than in wild-type control subjects (n = 65). Probands with other HFE genotypes also had increased mean erythrocyte parameters (other than red blood cell count). Peripheral blood smears prepared before therapeutic phlebotomy revealed that erythrocytes in many probands had increased diameters and were well filled with hemoglobin. Erythrocyte parameters were similar in C282Y/C282Y probands with and without hepatomegaly, elevated serum concentrations of hepatic enzymes, hepatic cirrhosis, diabetes mellitus, arthropathy, or hypogonadism. Among C282Y/C282Y probands, significantly greater values of MCV (but not other erythrocyte parameters) occurred among those who had transferrin saturation values of 75% or greater or iron overload at diagnosis. After iron depletion, the mean MCV, MCH, and MCHC values of C282Y/C282Y probands decreased but remained significantly greater than values in wild-type control subjects. Mean values of prephlebotomy MCH and MCHC concentrations were lower in HLA-A3-positive than in HLA-A3-negative C282Y/C282Y probands. We conclude that increased values of mean hemoglobin, hematocrit, MCV, MCH, and MCHC in hemochromatosis probands are caused primarily by increased iron uptake and hemoglobin synthesis by immature erythroid cells. Mechanisms of iron uptake by erythrocytes that could explain these results are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Erythrocyte Indices
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • Hemochromatosis / blood*
  • Hemochromatosis / genetics
  • Hemochromatosis / pathology
  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Hemoglobins / genetics
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values


  • HFE protein, human
  • HLA Antigens
  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Hemoglobins
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Membrane Proteins